The great Bob Kostoff has written and published so many books I've about thrown in the towel on trying to keep up with him. His latest, "Hidden History of Greater Niagara," is a great read and a must-have for anyone interested in the sometimes twisted history of the Niagara Frontier.
I've always held that newspaper writing is the best way to master the storyteller's art, and Kostoff's background as a star reporter and columnist at just about every daily ever published here, from the Buffalo Courier-Express to the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, is evident in each spare sentence and lean paragraph in the book.
A number of the chapters consist of reworked columns that first appeared here in the Niagara Falls Reporter, while many were written specifically for the book. Most of those deal with the fascinating frontier history of the city of Buffalo, the wide-open terminus of the Erie Canal that was as colorful and bawdy in its day as the Old West locales of Dodge City or Tombstone.
I ran into Bob along with fellow historian and author Dr. Bill Feder, whose treatise "The Evolution of an Ethnic Neighborhood That Became United In Diversity: The East Side, Niagara Falls, New York 1880-1930" is in its third printing, at the Niagara Street Area Business & Professional Association's International Festival last weekend.
Both men are absorbed by the dichotomy between the hopes and dreams of the people who settled and built this region, a period that lasted from the late 17th century to just before World War II, and the often dismal reality of what it has become today.
What went wrong?
We talked about it for an hour or so, accompanied by an excellent polka band with an ability to move effortlessly into sad Italian waltz-beat ballads altogether appropriate for the subject matter, but I don't think we reached any sort of a consensus.
"That's the great thing about writing history," Bob said. "Every path you take leads you to another, and you wind up someplace you never expected to go. It never ends."
"Hidden History of Greater Niagara" (History Press, 127 pp., $19.99) is available at the Book Corner here in the Falls, Talking Leaves in Buffalo and other fine bookstores everywhere. It's a fine book and you should read it.
Now let's go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Over the past decade, I've been accused of being in so many people's pockets I'm starting to feel like a piece of lint.
It's been a curious thing to me, because in nearly 20 years of journalism prior to coming to Niagara Falls, I had never been accused of being "bought and paid for" by some or another special interest. Of course, I'd never been subpoenaed before I came here either.
Nowadays, the critics seem to come up with new names every week, each allegedly supplying me with the cash to keep the Niagara Falls Reporter going.
Roger Trevino, Frank Parlato, state Sen. George Maziarz, failed congressional candidate Jack Davis, former city councilman Babe Rotella and Steve Pigeon have all been accused at various times by various miscreants of "owning" me and telling me what to write.
Nobody tells me what to write.
I was thinking about all this because someone sent me an anonymous flyer the loathsome Ed Lilly apparently has something to do with up in Lewiston accusing me of being in former Schools superintendent Carmen Granto's pocket. The logic behind this was that I'd written an unflattering 25-word item in one of my columns about Lilly, and the anonymous "writer" was unable to locate anything similar I'd written about Granto.
I've always had my doubts about both Lilly's virility and his literacy, so I can't say for sure whether he wrote it himself or had his girlfriend, the cretinous and often arrested buffoon Lenny Palumbo, do it. But one thing I do know is that if Carmen had something bad to say about someone, he'd be man enough to sign his name to it.
More likely he'd say it to your face.